Can we rely on the regulator? - Central Bank revises figures

IT seems every day brings another episode in the conflict between business and consumers — or capital and the common good, as it was described a century ago when the Bolshevik revolution loomed over Russia’s horizon.

Earlier this week, the European Commission published its findings on Ireland’s tax relationship with Apple, but a different strand of that narrative played out at the Oireachtas finance committee yesterday. The Central Bank governor, Philip Lane, had to declare that the financial regulator was not afraid of banks and that it oversees them effectively. It may be unkind, in this season of goodwill, to refer Mr Lane to the assurances offered by the financial regulator on the eve of the banking collapse in 2008, but that fiasco is the prism through which these assurances, valid or otherwise, are seen today. At issue yesterday was the treatment of customers entitled to a tracker mortgage. Mr Lane was forced to revise figures published just last Monday, which suggested that only 8,200 account holders had been refused one, in accordance with their contract. Mr Lane was obliged to accept that that figure is closer to 15,000. This is a minor detail, but it is also a reminder of how very comfortable banks are at asserting the whip hand, even when right is not on their side. The Bolshevik revolution did not survive the test of time and it is hard to imagine that the law-unto-themselves banks can be allowed to either.


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